A week after Honduran elections were held, with conservative candidate Porfirio Lobo Sosa the clear winner, the US is recognizing the president-elect as legitimate, while some countries in South America and Central America are hesitating. Turnout in the election — which it is hoped will bring stability and legitimacy to the country, which has been in legal and international limbo since it ousted President Zelaya for unconstitutional attemps to prolong his time in power — was slightly higher than in the previous Honduran election (initial official estimates were higher, but CNN currently projects voter turnout was 56.6%, vs. 55% in 2005 when Zelaya was elected). However, some countries (not only Zelaya allies such as Hugo Chavez, but also regional power Brazil) have not yet decided whether to recognize the elections as valid.
While the ouster of Zelaya had no effect on the slate of candidates available on the ballot (under the Honduran constitution he was not eligible to run for reelection), many countries including the US had expressed hope that the Honduran congress would vote to re-instate Zelaya for the remainder of his term. However, the Honduran congress voted overwhelmingly not to return Zelaya to power for the rest of his term, and Zelaya urged supporters to boycott the elections, insisting that any elections held under the interim government were illegitimate.
Brazilian representatives have voiced the possibility that evidence that voter turnout was similar to in past years would sway them towards recognizing the elections as valid, as the US already has. However, it remains to be seen how widely accepted Honduras’ newly elected leadership will be within the international community.
Tomorrow will mark one month since Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was roused from his bed by members of the military and escorted, in his pajamas, to a plane heading out of the country. Later that same day, June 28th, the Honduran congress elected Roberto Micheletti as interim president, with a term to expire on January 27th, 2010 — the date on which Zelaya’s term would otherwise have ended.
Since then, things have held in a state of tense limbo. No other country has recognized Micheletti as the legitimate president, and Zelaya is now camped out on the Honduras/Nicaragua boarder pushing for his return. Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez, a backer of Zelaya, has darkly threatened consequences if he thinks Venezuelans in Honduras might be threatened, but to date no outside power has attempted to force the Honduran military to stand down.
However, the situation is more complicated than a simple coup. This in depth article in the weekend’s WSJ on the lead up to Zelaya’s ouster is a pretty good primer on the subject. The military removed Zelaya in response to orders from the Honduran Supreme Court for the military to arrest Zelaya for disobeying the constitution. Zelaya was attempting to push through a ballot referendum to change the constitution — his primary object according to most Honduran authorities and observers being to remove the constitutional provision which limits each president to only one term in office. In this, he was following the example of other Latin American presidents who have sought to remove the constitutional provisions in their countries that were designed to keep one man from maintaining power indefinitely. Continue reading